Voters Oust Judge Lewis

Voters Oust Judge Lewis

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Voters removed a 3rd District judge who reduced the sentence of a sex offender and also caught the wrath of deer hunters and gun owners for an anti-hunting diatribe from the bench.

In Salt Lake, Tooele and Summit counties, 54 percent of voters Tuesday said Judge Leslie Lewis should not be retained, a rare defeat for a sitting jurist.

Lewis, a judge since 1991, was out of town and unavailable for comment, court spokeswoman Nancy Volmer said Wednesday.

"I just don't like the way this one was done," said Greg Skordas, one of 40 lawyers who bought a newspaper ad supporting Lewis. "I felt it was underhanded."

Judicial elections rarely get headlines, but Lewis found herself in the crosshairs of opponents, who set up a Web site that showed her berating a man in an illegal hunting case. She also sent the man's brother to a holding cell when he left the courtroom in a huff.

Separately, a week before the election, an attorney said Lewis had reduced the sentence of his client, a sex offender, to 20 years from 30 years and repeatedly discouraged him from telling prosecutors.

Salt Lake County prosecutors filed a complaint with the Judicial Conduct Commission. Attorney General Mark Shurtleff has asked an appeals court to reverse the reduced sentence.

"We helped make some of Utah's deer hunters and gun owners aware of the fact that she was expressing extreme prejudice against a lawful activity that many of them engage in," said N.W. Clayton, spokesman for a group called Gun Owners of Utah.

While the case involved poaching, which is illegal, Lewis said she was prejudiced against "people who kill deer" and recused herself.

"Have you ever actually looked at a deer when they're alive?" Lewis asked Michael Jacobson during the February hearing.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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